by Susan Austin
He had only a few things: a lot of hair, chew, and a heart complicated by loss. Pennies
tossed in fountains, the first star damned by city lights, the man he nearly killed
because he resembled the missing father. He yanked loose a few black strands, pulled
a plug of chew from a foil pouch and put the two, hair and tobacco, beside the cow moose,
her hindquarters steaming in the cold still sparkle of hoarfrost, first the forelegs buckling,
then the hind giving way, her black eyes not bothering with us now. He smoothed the wiry
brown hair and with the slightest shove and her bit of giving in she rolled on her side
and died. Justly, I didn’t care for what he did next—a kind of ho-yo-yo to all the directions.
Finally the knife from his hip, immaculate and sharp, severing sinew, the mesenteries
snapping clean in the cold, sorry for our hunger. It took five trips through deep snow
to carry the carcass out, her blood seeping through layers of my clothes, her
bulbous nose and dewlap slung over his shoulder, bobbing like the drunk man he carried
thirteen blocks to the hospital, blood let from his own miserable fists soaking both
their shirts and set him in a chair in the waiting room, sponged dried blood from
that familiar face.
Susan Austin lives in the foothills of the Teton mountains. She loves maps, all kinds of maps, the topographic maps stacked in the mudroom closet. She was the recipient of a James Michener Fellowship. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in BOAAT, Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers, Clerestory, Borderlands, and elsewhere.